Arvind Patel, pro se, appeals the October 12, 2018, order of
the Circuit Court of Ohio County finding petitioner guilty of
two traffic related violations of the Bethlehem Code of
Ordinances. Respondent Village of Bethlehem, by counsel T.C.
McCarthy, Jr., filed a response in support of the circuit
Court has considered the parties' briefs and the record
on appeal. The facts and legal arguments are adequately
presented, and the decisional process would not be
significantly aided by oral argument. Upon consideration of
the standard of review, the briefs, and the record presented,
the Court finds no substantial question of law and no
prejudicial error. For these reasons, a memorandum decision
affirming the circuit court's order is appropriate under
Rule 21 of the Rules of Appellate Procedure.
April 26, 2018, petitioner was operating a vehicle in the
Village of Bethlehem when he was stopped by Officer Eastham
of the Village of Bethlehem Police Department. Petitioner was
charged with driving a motor vehicle at a speed of thirty-one
miles per hour in a fifteen mile per hour school zone.
Petitioner was also charged with failing to produce a valid
certificate of proof of motor vehicle insurance for the
vehicle being driven at the time of the traffic violation.
Bethlehem Municipal Court held a hearing on petitioner's
citations on July 11, 2018. Petitioner challenged the charges
noting errors on the citation and further challenged the
sufficiency of the evidence. During the hearing, Officer
Eastham testified as to the circumstances surrounding the
charges and was cross-examined by petitioner. Following the
conclusion of the testimony by the police officer and Mr.
Patel, and considering the evidence submitted, Mr. Patel was
convicted of two charges: (1) driving a motor vehicle on
April 26, 2018, at a speed of thirty-one miles per hour in a
fifteen mile per hour school zone in the Village of Bethlehem
in violation of § 71.03 of the Bethlehem Code of
Ordinances; and (2) failing to produce a valid certificate of
proof of motor vehicle insurance for the vehicle being driven
by Mr. Patel in violation of § 72.04 of the Bethlehem
Code of 1976.
appealed the ruling of the municipal court to the Circuit
Court of Ohio County. The circuit court held an initial
hearing on September 4, 2018. Thereafter, it held a final
evidentiary hearing on September 26, 2018. Petitioner
challenged defects on the citations and the sufficiency of
the evidence. At the final hearing, Officer Eastham again
provided testimony as to the circumstances surrounding the
charges. Additionally, petitioner testified. Although
petitioner contested both charges at the hearing, he failed
to provide evidence of insurance coverage in place at the
time of the offense. Following the testimony and presentation
of the evidence, the circuit court found petitioner guilty of
the two charges and assessed a fine of $360. The circuit
court's ruling was memorialized in an October 12, 2018,
order. It is from this order that petitioner appeals.
appeal, petitioner sets forth several assignments of error.
Namely, petitioner raised issues relating to the sufficiency
of the evidence and errors related to credibility
determinations reached by the circuit court.
apply the standard for reviewing a judgment entered following
a bench trial:
"In reviewing challenges to the findings and conclusions
of the circuit court made after a bench trial, a two-pronged
deferential standard of review is applied. The final order
and the ultimate disposition are reviewed under an abuse of
discretion standard, and the circuit court's underlying
factual findings are reviewed under a clearly erroneous
standard. Questions of law are subject to a de novo
Syl. Pt. 1, State v. Mechling, 219 W.Va. 366, 633
S.E.2d 311 (2006) (quoting Syl. Pt. 1, Public Citizen,
Inc. v. First National Bank in Fairmont, 198 W.Va. 329,
480 S.E.2d 538 (1996)).
challenges the sufficiency of the evidence related to the
convictions and maintains that the circuit court erred in
finding him guilty. In syllabus point 1 of State v.
Guthrie, 194 W.Va. 657, 461 S.E.2d 163 (1995), this
Court clarified the appellate standard of review where a
criminal defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence
supporting his or her conviction:
The function of an appellate court when reviewing the
sufficiency of the evidence to support a criminal conviction
is to examine the evidence admitted at trial to determine
whether such evidence, if believed, is sufficient to convince
a reasonable person of the defendant's guilt beyond a
reasonable doubt. Thus, the relevant inquiry is whether,
after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the
prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the
essential elements of the crime proved beyond a reasonable
Court has long held that "a criminal defendant
challenging the sufficiency of the evidence to support a
conviction takes on a heavy burden." Id. at
669, 461 S.E.2d at 175. Based upon our review of the record,
including transcripts from the Circuit Court of Ohio County,
we note that petitioner was given broad latitude to present
his case, introduce evidence, and cross-examine the adverse
witness at trial. Notwithstanding, based upon the evidence
admitted at trial, we conclude that circuit court did not
abuse its discretion when it ruled that petitioner was
driving the subject motor vehicle on April 26, 2018, at a
speed of thirty-one miles per hour in a fifteen mile per hour
school zone in the Village of Bethlehem and that petitioner
failed to produce a valid certificate of proof of motor
vehicle insurance at the time of his traffic violation.
petitioner repeatedly attacks Officer Eastham's
credibility. As we have long held, credibility determinations
are for the trier of fact and not an appellate court.
Id. Here, the circuit court served as the finder of
fact and assessed the credibility of the witnesses.